As President Barack Obama’s eight years in office come to a close, you’ve probably noticed how his hair has seemingly grayed overnight, the more pronounced creases in his face, and the overall toll that the years have taken on his appearance. The same is true of his predecessors: Check out the deeper furrows in George W.’s brow and the pouchy bags under Clinton’s eyes. In fact, in 2009, Dr. Michael Roizen, a chief wellness officer for Cleveland Clinic, claimed that presidents age at roughly twice the rate of the rest of us.
While it’s undeniable that the stress of waging war, battling Congress and living your life in the media leaves its mark on all of our commanders-in-chief, the fact of the matter is that those marks are really only skin (and hair) deep. At least according to human longevity expert and professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, S. Jay Olshansky. In 2011, Olshanksy did extensive research on whether presidents have a shorter life expectancy than other American men of their generation and found the opposite to be true.* Despite losing their pre-presidential looks, these leaders generally end up outliving their peers after their stint in the Oval Office.
Don’t Let the President’s Looks Deceive You!
“The fact is that 23 of the 34 U.S. presidents who died from natural causes lived longer and in many instances significantly longer than what was predicted for them during the year in which they were inaugurated,” says Olshansky.
The reason presidents live longer than their peers may be related to their upbringing, education, income, and experiences. Explains Eileen Crimmins of the University of Southern California, “They’re the cream of the socioeconomic crop. Generally they’ve had pretty good lives and already made it to a fairly old age, so they’re going to live relatively long almost by definition.” Not to mention, anyone even considering the office of President of the United States is probably going to be better equipped to handle high-pressure situations than the average person.
In other words, while those gray hairs and crow’s feet might make you look older than your years, they seem to have little or no correlations with your vitality and health. Well, that’s nice to know!
*Published in the Dec. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).